Document Type : Research Paper


1 PhD Student, Department of Physical Education, Faculty of Basic Sciences, Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran

2 Associate Professor, Faculty of Sport Sciences, Alzahra University, Tehran, Iran

3 Professor, Faculty of Sport Sciences, Urmia University, Urmia, Iran


Psychological states affect focus of attention and play a mediating role in its effect on motor performance and learning. The present study investigated the effect of practice under psychological pressure and attention focusing with instruction on learning billiard shot. Participants were 48 female volunteer students (19-23 years old) who were randomly selected and assigned to 4 experimental groups (internal focus under high and low pressure, external focus under high and low pressure). The groups practiced for 8 sessions after the pretest. Acquisition test was performed in the last session of practice, and the retention test was conducted with 2 and 10 days of delay after the last practice session. The accuracy of the shots was scored according to the distance of the ball from the pit. The results of U Mann-Whitney test showed priority of internal attention in the acquisition and 10-day delay retention tests and priority of practice under low pressure in 10-day delay retention test (P<0.05). The results of Kruskal–Wallis test and pairwise comparisons indicated priority of the acquisition of internal attention under high pressure on external attention under high pressure and the priority of delayed retention of internal attention under low pressure on external attention under high pressure (P<0.05). It seems that given the nature of skill in terms of unchanged environmental conditions and high accuracy and attention requirements especially in the early stages of learning, practice under low psychological pressure conditions and internal focusing will result in more delayed retention for novice people


1.   Schmidt, R.A., et al., Motor control and learning: A behavioral emphasis. 2018: Human kinetics.
2.   Beilock, S.L. and R. Gray, Why do athletes choke under pressure? 2007.
3.   Magill, R. and D. Anderson, Motor Learning and Control: Concepts and Applications: Tenth Edition. 2013: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
4.   Gray, R., Attending to the execution of a complex sensorimotor skill: Expertise differences, choking, and slumps. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 2004. 10(1): p. 42.
5.   Masters, R.S., Knowledge, knerves and know‐how: The role of explicit versus implicit knowledge in the breakdown of a complex motor skill under pressure. British journal of psychology, 1992. 83(3): p. 343-358.
6.   Beilock, S.L. and A.R. McConnell, Stereotype threat and sport: Can athletic performance be threatened? Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 2004. 26(4): p. 597-609.
7.   Wulf, G. and J. Su, An external focus of attention enhances golf shot accuracy in beginners and experts. Research quarterly for exercise and sport, 2007. 78(4): p. 384-389.
8.   Zachry, T., et al., Increased movement accuracy and reduced EMG activity as the result of adopting an external focus of attention. Brain research bulletin, 2005. 67(4): p. 304-309.
9.   Wulf, G., S. Chiviacowsky, and R. Lewthwaite, Altering mindset can enhance motor learning in older adults. Psychology and Aging, 2012. 27(1): p. 14.
10. Wulf, G. and R. Lewthwaite, Optimizing performance through intrinsic motivation and attention for learning: The OPTIMAL theory of motor learning. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 2016. 23(5): p. 1382-1414.
11. Chiviacowsky, S., G. Wulf, and R. Wally, An external focus of attention enhances balance learning in older adults. Gait & posture, 2010. 32(4): p. 572-575.
12. Wulf, G. and N. McNevin, Simply distracting learners is not enough: More evidence for the learning benefits of an external focus of attention. European Journal of Sport Science, 2003. 3(5): p. 1-13.
13. Castaneda, B. and R. Gray, Effects of focus of attention on baseball batting performance in players of differing skill levels. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 2007. 29(1): p. 60-77.
14. Cluff, T., T. Gharib, and R. Balasubramaniam, Attentional influences on the performance of secondary physical tasks during posture control. Experimental brain research, 2010. 203(4): p. 647-658.
15. Lawrence, G.P., et al., Internal and external focus of attention in a novice form sport. Research quarterly for exercise and sport, 2011. 82(3): p. 431-441.
16. Schorer, J., et al., Influence of varying focus of attention conditions on dart throwing performance in experts and novices. Experimental brain research, 2012. 217(2): p. 287-297.
17. De Bruin, E.D., et al., A randomised controlled trial investigating motor skill training as a function of attentional focus in old age. BMC geriatrics, 2009. 9(1): p. 15.
18. Proteau, L., On the specificity of learning and the role of visual information for movement control, in Advances in psychology. 1992, Elsevier. p. 67-103.
19. Movahedi, A., et al., A practice-specificity-based model of arousal for achieving peak performance. Journal of motor behavior, 2007. 39(6): p. 457-462.
20. Moradi, J., A. Movahedi, and H. Salehi, Specificity of learning a sport skill to the visual condition of acquisition. Journal of motor behavior, 2014. 46(1): p. 17-23.
21. Ehrlenspiel, F., Choking under pressure–Attention and motor control in performance situations. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Potsdam, Germany, 2006.
22. Shojaei M, Z.H., Sadeghi H, The effect of age and skill level on kinematic and kinetic indices of free throw in stressful conditions. , in Physical Education. 2011, Tehran University of Science and Research.
23. Gray, R. and R. Cañal-Bruland, Attentional focus, perceived target size, and movement kinematics under performance pressure. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 2015. 22(6): p. 1692-1700.
24. Beilock, S.L., S.A. Wierenga, and T.H. Carr, Expertise, attention, and memory in sensorimotor skill execution: Impact of novel task constraints on dual-task performance and episodic memory. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A, 2002. 55(4): p. 1211-1240.
25. Gray, R. and J. Allsop, Interactions between performance pressure, performance streaks, and attentional focus. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 2013. 35(4): p. 368-386.